Online crime fuels 27 percent spike in UK identity theft

Fraud body Cifas calls for national system of fraud reporting


UK identity fraud spiked 27 percent in the first quarter of 2015 compared to a year earlier and now makes up nearly half of all reported fraud crimes, fraud service Cifas has reported, glumly.

Drawing conclusions on the basis of quarterly figures is always treacherous but the numbers are in line with its annual report for 2014, released in March, which showed that ID theft affected 125,000 people in the UK last year.

In the first quarter, there were 34,151 confirmed cases of Identity fraud reported through Cifas’s 245 member organisations (mostly financial sector organisations), a 27 percent rise on the same period in 2014. These numbers imply that 2015's victim count is on course to exceed last year's.

ID theft made up 47 percent of all fraud with credit cards exploiting identity accounting for 41 percent, or 14,103, of that total, Cifas said. Eight out of ten identity frauds were attempted or happened online.

“What these figures show is that identity fraud continues to be the most serious fraud threat and that the first quarter of the year has been a very profitable one for organised identity criminals,” commented Cifas chief executive, Simon Dukes.

“Our data is just the tip of the iceberg - more needs to be done to identify the true scale of fraud in the UK and educate individuals about the dangers and the steps that can be taken to protect themselves.”

Cifas argues that the UK now needs a government-agreed national measure of fraud levels, without which the true scale of what is happening will never be apparent, and perhaps a review of sentencing for fraud crimes.

The organisation also makes the interesting point that where and how a person’s identity was compromised is often never known, which makes it almost impossible to implement prevention against future attacks. Similarly, the role of organised crime on the rise in ID theft needs further research.

Other data nuggets from the quarter’s numbers include that the average age of an ID theft victim is 46 – roughly the same as the average age for the UK as a whole – but with the 21 to 30 age range a growing target.

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